Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has given the sign that İstanbul's historic Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) Museum could be converted into a mosque.
“Currently, we are very close to the Ayasofya Mosque. Even if your ears don't hear, I believe that you have a will inside,” Arınç said, addressing attendees at the opening of a new carpet museum behind the famed Hagia Sophia Museum in İstanbul's Sultanahmet district. “Ayasofya is telling us something. I wonder what Ayasofya wants to tell us?”
The Hagia Sophia Museum was first dedicated as an Orthodox patriarchal basilica in 360. Until 1453 it served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople. Following the city's conquest by the Ottoman Empire, the building was turned into a mosque in 1453 and remained so until 1931, when it was closed to the public for four years. It was reopened by the republican authorities in 1935 as a museum.
“Let's listen to what it wants to tell us. Thank God, during my life I witnessed two good things. Two mosques, which are both named Ayasofya, were reopened as mosques for worship. These were already mosques. However, they were used for other purposes. Turkey is a secular, social and democratic country but also a constitutional state.
As a constitutional state, Turkey should act according to the law. What we will do is … This was a mosque in the past and was used for worship. A mosque cannot be used for other purposes than worship,” Arınç said.
“Although there was no law stating that a mosque could be turned to a museum, some people said ‘it should be a museum.' However, we have responsibility to the laws and according to these laws, mosques cannot be used for other purposes,” Arınç added.